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Reliving Winchester's past with spooky city tour
WITH its tall buildings, gothic architecture and narrow side streets, when the sun goes down Winchester is the perfect place to relive haunting tales.
It is all too easy to let imagination run away with you, and standing in a wobbly, dark side street at the mouth of one of Britain’s oldest bars, it is easy to picture how our predecessors lived.
The heavy beams, stone pavement and iron overhead hangings all lay claim to days gone by, and with a sharp intake of breath, I stepped inside.
At first greeted by a warm buzz similar of any local pub, The Royal Oak, just off St George’s Street in Winchester, was packed full of faces glimmering with expectation.
That soon disappeared, as I was directed to the cellar, through a rough wooden door and down an uneven staircase.
Crammed with tables, chairs, and candles, the room reeked of old candle wax, beer, and of course, the anticipation ahead of a night of ghostly goings-on.
After a brief introduction, and health and safety briefing (don’t aggravate the poltergeists) we walked to the top of St George’s Street, and listened with baited breath as the tale of four ghosts at Theatre Royal Winchester was explained.
Our guides, one burly masked man and another top hat-clad gent, took great pleasure in relaying the gory details of death and disaster as our walk continued to the Westgate, at the top of the High Street.
The last of the main medieval gates in to the city, the building has since been refurbished, and now operates as a museum, showcasing the Tudor and Stewart era.
It is believed it was used to hold prisoners – as many as 20 to one tiny room, and we heard how one tried to escape and received a flogging, his screams still to be heard today.
Though we heard nothing, we carried on to the Great Hall, castle, and to St Clement Street, behind the former offices of The Hampshire Chronicle, which are rumoured to hold a female ghost who screams in the night.
Now about half way through the evening, darkness continued to fall, bringing with it a cold chill forcing us all to button our jackets – it only added to the atmosphere.
In twilight, the city’s beautiful historic buildings only looked more grand, and added weight to the weird and wonderful ghostly tales.
To bring the night to a close, it was a stop at The Eclipse Inn, The Square, but not for a pint.
Truly saving the best till last, the convincing story of a grey lady had the 30-strong group gripped.
Dating back to 1540, the pub has previously been a rectory, private residence, ale house, and from the nineteenth century, an Inn.
Thought to be Dame Alice Lisle of Moyles Court, who was executed on a top-floor platform, the grey lady is said to pace the room in which she spent her last night.
Although I didn’t drive home half-expecting to see a white shadow every time I looked in the rear-view mirror, taken with a pinch of salt the ghost walk was a good-spirited (excuse the pun!) and fun evening. It may not have been entirely educational, but peppered with incredible views of Winchester at twilight it was an hour I was happy to spend.
The operators, Supernatural Tours, run a series of different events across Hampshire, including physic suppers, and on July 26 a paranormal open day at Fort Widley in Portsmouth.
It features mediumship demonstrations, Victorian séance experiences, and a range of stalls and activities.
For more information go to supernatural-tours.co.uk.